George D. Swanson
California State University
Travel to and residence at Mars may require the use of a Lower Body Negative Pressure (LBNP) training device to maintain fitness. The LBNP device pulls body fluids into the lower body so as to simulate an earth like gravity vector. The purpose of this study was to determine if a cycle ergometry training program using LBNP would cause a greater increase in VO2max and endurance, than an identical training program that did not use Lower Body Negative Pressure.
VO2max and endurance were determined on a cycle ergometer and on a treadmill using the Bruce protocol. The subjects were matched according to VO2max and divided into experimental and control groups. The subjects then trained three times per week for 8-weeks at about 70% VO2max. Following the eight weeks, they repeated the pre-test protocol. Eight volunteers began the program, and 5 (3 study/2 control) completed it. The results of the post-testing showed greater increases in VO2max in the study group compared to the controls, although the low number of subjects precluded statistical analysis. The study group showed increases in VO2max of 4.8%, 16.25%, and 7%; while the control group showed increases of 5.9% and 2.4%. The results from the endurance test did not show any improvement in either group.
These results suggest that training under LBNP conditions may be useful to enhance fitness in 1 G. Similarly, in 0 G or 1/3 G, training with LBNP may simulate a more earth-like training condition because fluids are shifted to the legs as they are in 1G. The consequence may be an increase in blood and plasma volume – the traditional earth-like training effect. A higher level of aerobic fitness may be possible using the LBNP training device while in and traveling to the Martian environment thus increasing Martian work capacity and facilitating reentry into a 1 G environment.